The Divine Madness of Isabella Theater Review - An Limited Return Engagement of the Commedia dell'Arte's Finest Prima Donna

Hollywood’s own Write Act Repertory Theatre revives a one-woman show which made its World Premiere on the same stage in 2005. For a 2-week limited pre-National Tour engagement, Wendy Gough returns with her award winning production of The Divine Madness of Isabella.

Wendy Gough in "The Divine Madness of Isabella"

The play begins with Isabella Andreini, poet, mother, actress for the commedia dell’Arte, in the moment she finds herself in an unfamiliar place, not sure how she got there, but told an omnipotent voice for above that she must perform if she wishes to leave. The performance she must give is the story of her life, in five acts.

Act one tells Isabella’s life at a turning point where she must choose between a life as a trophy wife to a much older man, a nun, a courtesan. Too well-educated for any of the aforementioned fates typical of girls her age, Isabella ultimately finds her calling and her first love in the theatre. Act two introduces the many characters of the company of actors she finds herself a part of, and details the moment when she became more than a poet, she became an actress. Act three recounts her raise to respect within the company and the Italy society, among both royalty and religious leaders. In acts four and five, Isabella proceeding with great difficulty as the pains of life and art and motherhood slowly takes their total on the actress’ deteriorating mind.

Gough's performance incorporated a host of traditional masks and puppets

I really like the production design with the frescoed curtains as literal backdrops defining the scene and time for each of her impromptu performances. Each act was introduced with the unreeling of a cloth scroll from the ceiling, which she would read then often reluctantly perform. Two trunks, each filled with beautifully detailed masks and puppets, were the wells she would delve into to retrieve the next character in her tale.

One performer shows are tricky. They require an extra ordinary leap of the imagination for the audience. For the performer, it requires the extension of one’s energy to manifest different bodies and genders, sometimes species, right before the audience’s eyes. Quite often the only tool a performer has in this transformation is him/herself.

Wendy Hough in "The Divine Madness of Isabella"

                                                   While I recognize the skill and stamina required to perform 20+ characters in a span of 80 minutes, I simply was not transported into this tale of renaissance Theatre and the one woman who elevated herself beyond the usual station of her gender. I simply was not drawn into this story. The characters were not different enough for me. Gough very first move into the persona of "the Father" mask was strangely interesting, particularly because it was accompanied by a kind of fluid contortion of her body, as if her were molding herself into the character. Ms. Gough took great care in giving each character a distinct physicality, but nothing else during the performance was as engrossing as that very first move.

                                                             I feel extremely conflicted because I can see the work Ms. Gough put forth. Her terrific handle on the language is obvious and the poetry was delightful. The problem, however, is that the work is supposed to be invisible, the audience should simply be unwittingly drawn into an experience. Perhaps more avid fans of classical theater would have a deeper appreciation for this particular piece. Isabella Andreini was clearly an anomaly of her time and deserves to be recognized and remembered. For whatever reason, this performance kept me at arm’s length.

The Divine Madness of Isabella is currently running August 24, 2008 at:
Write Act Repertory
6128 Yucca Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028

Thursday, Friday & Saturday @ 8pm
Sundays @ 4pm

For information call: 323-469-3113

Top of Page
Join Splash Magazines

Feature Article

Tempflow™ and Tempur-Pedic® Reviews - What 35 Hours of Research Uncovered

Want Your Business to Male a Splash
<!-- #wrapper -->